I'm not that religious myself, but there's something about religious belief that fascinates me. That's why I'm fascinated with Japanese religious sects. Japanese themselves mostly don't engage in religious piety; the country's outward expressions of religion are more cultural than devout. So when I do see examples of new religious groups in the country, my curiosity is piqued.

So my curiosity was more than piqued when I learned that such a group was the source of a potential measles epidemic in the country.

The group's name is Miroku Community Kyuusei Shinkyou (ミロクコミュニティ救世神教), or "Religion of Salvation", and it's based in the city of Tsu in Mie Prefecture. There's not a lot of information about the group on their web site (yes, even cults need web sites these days); the main page says the site's undergoing "renewal". But the group has been around for a while: a visit to the August 2018 version of their site in the Internet Archive announces their impending 50th anniversary in 2020. According to the Web site, the group seems to believe in the arrival of a wise ruler, the use of exorcism, and the maintenance of health through "very natural" farming methods as they keys to saving the world and bringing everyone happiness.

Picture from the Kyuusei Suuukyou web site.
A picture from Kyuusei Shuukyou's web site of head administrator Gotou Takahiko (sic; kanji: 後藤崇比古).

What the group doesn't seem to believe in is modern medical vaccination against cured diseases. As a result, some 24 members became infected recently with the measles. The infection didn't end with the group, however - it quickly spread to more than a dozen others in Mie, and then spread in (fortunately) isolated cases to Nagoya, Hamamatsu, Gifu Prefecture and Wakayama Prefecture. An infected individual has even been confirmed as attending a Handshake Meet and Greet for popular idol group AKB48.

The group is being pilloried on Twitter for its recklessness, and has been called out by the mayor of Mie, Suzuki Hidetaka. That's not surprising. What's surprising is that, in a rare move for a religious cult, the sect has put a notice of apology up on its Web site. The statement explained that its "natural approach" to health led to several dozen members getting infected, but that it's learned the error of its ways:

この度の予期せぬ事態に鑑み、麻疹等の感染リスクの高い疾病のワクチン接種について、今後は保健所の指導に従い、皆様にご心配をおかけしないよう対処してまいります

After reflecting on this unexpected turn of events, we have decided that from here out that, in order not to create trouble for others, we will follow the health center's advice regading vaccinations for highly risky diseases such as measles.

This was actually a fully expected outcome of not getting vaccinated. Vaccination advocates throughout the world have clearly enunciated the dangers of not getting vaccinated for treatable diseases in response to an anti-science vaccination movement that sprung up in the early 21st century. The Web site I F*cking Love Science highlighted a heat map a few years back from the Council for Foreign Relations. The Council's map shows outbreaks of previously cured diseases happening all over the world - including in, yes, Japan.

One Map Sums Up The Damage Caused By The Anti-Vaccination Movement
Vaccinations are one of the of most incredible aspects of modern medicine. They can make previously lethal diseases disappear from society and save countle

At least this group has learned the error of its ways, which is more than can be said for most anti-vax advocates. Measles is lethal in about 1 out of 1,000 cases. Fortunately for the group's financial coffers, no one has died. Yet.

(JP) Link: A Mass Infection Caused by a Religion That Eschewed Vaccinations

信仰でワクチン非接種、宗教団体発端ではしか集団感染:朝日新聞デジタル
三重県内で研修会の参加者が発端となったはしか(麻疹)の集団感染があり、三重県は23日、研修会の主催者は津市内の宗教団体で、信仰上の理由で多くがワクチン接種をしておらず、感染が拡大したとの見方を明らか…